Vaughan City Hall

PROJECT Vaughan City Hall, Vaughan, Ontario
ARCHITECT Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg Architects
PHOTOS Tom Arban and Maris Mezulis

Originally a rural township located at the northern edge of Toronto, the city of Vaughan is transitioning from a rural past to an urban future. Since 1981, the town has grown from 29,647 to approximately 220,000 inhabitants, witnessing unprecedented growth and replacing farmland with housing and big-box retail. The Vaughan Civic Centre was the winning scheme in an invited design competition to set a tone for civic-minded and environmentally responsible development in the 21st century.

The competition terms required an architectural treatment for the new City Hall building and a master plan for the entire Civic Centre site, which includes a diverse program of Civic Square, Chamber of Commerce, administrative offices, public spaces and gardens. The site comprises 24 acres on the site of the original City Hall designed in the 1970s. It is bounded on the north and west by multi-lane highways, while on the east it is bordered by inter-regional railway tracks and on the south it backs onto a residential subdivision. 

The solution–a campus of low-rise buildings defining a public terrain of open spaces–was inspired by the clarity of town planning in Ontario, where City Hall, Civic Square, market and cenotaph form an identifiable civic precinct. In response to the city’s agricultural heritage, the campus is organized according to a series of bands informed by the east-west agricultural subdivision system and the north-south concession grid.

Officially opened in 2011, City Hall houses the Council Chamber, civic administrative offices and a Civic Tower, and implements the first phase of the master-plan vision. The buildings are stepped down in height from the northeast corner to the lower pavilions located at the west and south. The City Hall and Civic Tower anchor the composition and command the attention of approaching traffic. An allée of maple trees along the southern edge of the Square leads to the main entrance of City Hall.

Exterior cladding materials include terra cotta, copper and glass curtain wall, combined with thick slabs of Ontario Wiarton and Halton Blue Ice stone for exterior landscape and interior floor finishes. Interior spaces are finished in maple and stained walnut, and major public circulation routes and assembly spaces will be finished in Ledgerock and Ontario limestone.

The architects raised the original LEED Silver target to Gold, and challenged the City’s requirement for 900 surface parking spaces because it contradicted sustainability goals. The solution includes underground parking, saving the surface land for green space. The plan is organized around interconnected, centrally located atria for daylight to reach the mid-point of the workspaces. When weather conditions are favourable, the atria windows open automatically to naturally ventilate the building. The building orientation and the use of optimum amounts of glazing to reduce solar heat gain greatly reduce the need for a large HVAC system and artificial lighting. Offices have raised floors and flexible workstations, and the overall structure is concrete slab with a concrete framework of circular columns and flared capitals.

Jury: An example of a large and complex municipal program that is deftly handled to the extreme, not only in terms of its thoughtful spatial organization and lucidly elegant architectural language, but also as a distinctive civic anchoring point in an expansive and loose-knit suburban milieu. The quality of materials and detailing, and the effects of light are all finely judged, reinforcing the overall sense of a calm, dignified and recognizably contemporary architecture designed to last and to embody the inherent decorum and efficiency of municipal life. CA

Client City of Vaughan (Clayton Harris, City Manager)
Architect Team Shirley Blumberg, Bruce Kuwabara, Goran Milosevic, Kevin Bridgman, Garth Zimmer, Walter Gaudet, Andrea Macaroun, Artur Kobylanski, George Bizios, Shane O’Neil, Carla Munoz, Bill Colaco, Richard Wong, Safdar Abidi, Ramon Janer, Dave Smythe, Lilly Liaukus, Jacki Chapel, Armine Tadevosyan
Structural Halcrow Yolles Partnership Inc.
Mechanical Stantec
Electrical Mulvey & Banani
Landscape Phillips Farevaag Smallenberg
Traffic & Municipal LEA Consulting Ltd.
LEED DST Consulting Engineers
Sustainability Stantec
Code Leber Rubes
Building Envelope Brook Van Dalen
Civil Conestoga-Rovers
Area 320,000 ft2
Budget $105 M
Completion 2011